Crime Spree Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Carjacking, Kidnapping Teen and Baseball Coach

Ira Stringer, 45, is accused of severeral crimes in Southern California, including the carjacking and kidnapping of Jack Spencer, 16, and Dylan Graham, 28, in San Diego

A man accused in the carjacking and kidnapping of a teenager and baseball coach in San Diego has pleaded not guilty in the bizarre crime spree, officials confirmed.

Ira Stringer, 45, appeared in court for his arraignment in Orange County, Calif., Tuesday and entered a not guilty plea. Officials with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office say Stringer is slated to appear in court next for a pre-trial hearing on Jan. 7 in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

On Dec. 23, at around 10 a.m., Stringer – armed with a handgun – approached 16-year-old Jack Spencer as he prepared for baseball tryouts alongside his coach, Dylan Graham, 28, at Hickman Field in San Diego’s Kearny Mesa community.

According to detectives with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), Stringer allegedly forced the teenager and the coach to get into Graham’s Jeep Latitude and then ordered the coach to drive him north from the sports complex to Ramona.

With the coach in the driver’s seat, the teen in the front passenger seat and the suspect in the back, they drove until they reached the mountains near Ramona. The suspect told the pair he would let them go near Ramona, but after making a call, he told them his plans had changed.

Police later said Stringer pretended to make a call to make it appear as if someone was assisting him on the other line. Graham told NBC7 he remembers thinking Stringer was going to kill them, but was just waiting for the right time. He said he began thinking about an escape route to keep himself and the teenage baseball player alive.

When Stringer pulled out a cigarette and began smoking, Graham lunged at the suspect and grabbed his gun.

As they struggled over the weapon, two shots were fired into the roof of the car and the Jeep veered off the road, crashing at San Vicente and Wildcat Canyon roads in Ramona. The coach told the teen to run, and Jack ran up to the road and flagged down a car.

Soon, he ended up at the San Diego Sheriff Department's Ramona Substation.

Meanwhile, police said Graham and Stringer both got out of the car. Graham then ran to another vehicle passing by and asked for help.

As Graham spoke with the passerby in the car, Stringer came up behind him. At that point, Graham fired two shots at Stringer’s feet.

Stringer then ran up to another car that was passing by, this time driven by a 79-year-old woman, and demanded she drive off with him inside. He told the woman he had a gun, police said.

The elderly woman eventually managed to escape from the car, police said, and that vehicle was later found abandoned in a parking lot at Barona Casino in San Diego’s East County.

Stringer was nowhere to be found.

Graham and Jack were eventually reunited with their families, both unharmed but understandably shaken.

For several days, Stringer remained at large. On Dec. 26, San Diego police linked the suspect to another crime: an armed robbery at an Arco AM/PM store in the 2700 block of Lemon Grove Avenue.

According to police, Stringer was in the store only for a few minutes and then went out to his car. When he came back inside, he was armed with a shotgun.

He demanded gasoline in his car and allegedly threatened to kill the gas station clerk if his demands weren’t met, police said. Once the pump was connected to the suspect’s car, the clerk walked back inside. The suspect then drove off.

But Stringer’s alleged crime spree was not over.

Police said Stringer then made his way to the City of Orange. Just before midnight, he walked into a Circle K convenience store in the 2500 block of E. Chapman Avenue and allegedly pointed a gun at three victims inside the store.

The Orange Police Department said Stringer demanded the clerk activate his gas pump and give him a pack of cigarettes. He ordered another victim to go out and pump gas into his Buick Lacrosse and told the third victim to leave.

With his gas tank filled, Stringer drove away from the gas station in the Buick. A security guard then reported the robbery to police, who quickly tracked down Stringer as he drove.

Officers tried to pull him over, but Stringer kept driving, leading police on a 45-minute, high-speed pursuit from Orange County to Riverside County.

Ultimately, California Highway Patrol officers laid out spike strips and successfully disabled Stringer’s car.

A SWAT standoff and two hours of negotiations between Stringer and officials followed. At one point, Stringer threw his gun out of the car. After that, he surrendered to SWAT officers with the Riverside
Police Department, who then turned him over to the Orange Police Department.

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